Conventionally, maximum capacities for energy assimilation are presented as daily averages. However, maximum daily energy intake is determined by the maximum metabolizable energy intake rate and the time available for assimilation of food energy Thrush nightingales (Luscinia luscinia) in migratory disposition were given limited food rations for 3 d to reduce their energy stores. Subsequently, groups of birds were fed ad lib. during fixed time periods varying between 7 and 23 h per day. Metabolizable energy intake rate, averaged over the available feeding time, was 1.9 W and showed no difference between groups on the first day of refueling. Total daily metabolizable energy intake increased linearly with available feeding time, and for the 23-h group, it was well above suggested maximum levels for animals. We conclude that both intake rate and available feeding time must be taken into account when interpreting potential constraints acting on animals' energy budgets. In the 7-h group, energy intake rates increased from 1.9 W on the first day to 3.1 W on the seventh day. This supports the idea that small birds can adaptively increase their energy intake rates on a short timescale.